A few months ago, my wife Gay and I were sitting at the bar at The Rieger Grill & Exchange, enjoying some of Chef Howard Hanna’s menu specials, when we struck up a most interesting conversation with the group of people next to us.
“You look like you really enjoy your food,” said one of the gentleman, probably because we were quietly taking pictures.
“Well, we do,” I replied. “And we enjoy sharing our experiences with others.”
That’s when Ed Collins introduced himself. During the evening, we had a wonderful exchange with him and his group, talking about food, food preparation, restaurant atmosphere and some of our favorite Kansas City dining places.
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We talked about his business, Burlington Mattress in North Kansas City, and then he sprung this on me: “Oh, and also, I’m the new owner of NKC Dog. You should try it out sometime.”
What? That, I didn’t expect.
After I had my first real Chicago Dog on a recent trip to the Windy City, I’d been trying to find a good replica in Kansas City. There was a place in Northtown that I wanted to try, but every time I drove by, they were closed.
“Yep,” Collins said, “that’s the place. Right next to the muffler shop. We just took it over, and I can guarantee you that the place will be open the next time you want to eat there.”
Now that’s what I wanted to hear.
The day we went to NKC Dog (101 Armour Road, North Kansas City. 816-832-4695), I teamed up with my other Northland comfort food pal, Phil Morrow. He and his wife, Rosemary, joined Gay and me to experience a “fancy” hot dog lunch.
We were enthusiastically greeted upon entering the small, light-filled place. Being newbies, we asked about the full tour of their offerings: Chicago Dog, Chili Dog, Ribeye Philly Dog, Reuben Dog, Slaw Dog and their specialty, the KC Dog. That’s an Italian Sausage topped with bacon, onions and KC BBQ Sauce.
You have the option to upgrade any dog to a foot long, Italian Sausage, Hot Polish Sausage or Bratwurst for only $2. Whew! With this many choices, the decision-making process might be delayed more than usual.
Since my most recent hot dog obsession was sparked from my Chicago trip, I had to order the Chicago Dog. And if you read my post about The North End, you know that I also love a good Reuben sandwich, so we had to order the Reuben Dog, too.
Being a Kansas City Barbeque Society guy, Phil ordered the KC Dog and his wife ordered the Reuben.
When our meal arrived at the table, as my wife would say, “They were clearly showing off” with the overstuffed buns and generous ingredients. The “comfort-food foodie” inside me was eager for that first bite.
Now we all know that there are very strict criteria that need to be met with a Chicago Dog. No wiggle room here. So let’s go down the list. Starting with an all-beef hot dog, we have onions, tomatoes, real sport peppers, neon green relish, pickle, mustard, celery seed and a poppy seed bun. Dead on in my book.
As I took my first bite and heard the crunch of the pickle and felt the juices start to run down my cheek, I could almost smell a Metro bus as I stood on a Chicago street corner. What is it about comfort food and memories? I’m not really sure, but it works for me.
Next is the Reuben Dog. There’s room for creative interpretation here, but let’s check out the details. First, it’s served on a marble rye hot dog bun. Are you kidding me? I didn’t even know those were made. Excellent effort at trying to stay authentic.
Then there’s an all-beef hot dog generously stacked with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing. This is a lot to handle for one hot dog, but NKC Dog makes this happen, and with style.
After I bit into that Reuben Dog, I could tell that I was going to be a fan of this place. I love it when someone reinterprets basic classic comfort food and has fun with it, mixing two traditions together to create one great new experience.
As I glanced around the table, smiles were everywhere. Phil was loving the KC Dog, Gay was scarfing down the rest of the Reuben Dog, while Rosemary and I were contemplating splitting another Chicago Dog. Yeah, this place is that good. And, the creations at NKC Dog are not skimpy at all, so you’ll get your money’s worth.
If you’re missing your hometown Chicago Dog or you just want to find some creative comfort food, you owe it to yourself to try out NKC Dog. Tell ’em the Grill Mayor sent you. You won’t be disappointed. Bon appétit.
Craig Jones is a live-fire cooking expert, the Grill Mayor for Food Network (2012), and owner of Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts. He’s also a certified KCBS BBQ judge, a student of pizza crafting and an enthusiastic supporter of the greater Kansas City food scene.